We watched part of the memorial tribute to Princess Diana on television the other night. Her sons, William and Harry, put it together in honor of what would have been her 46th birthday on July 1.
I made it through Elton John playing and singing "Your Song" with a montage of pictures of Diana on a huge screen beside him, but when he got to the line, "I hope you don't mind/I hope you don't mind that I put down in words/How wonderful life is, when you're in the world" I said to my husband in a strangled voice, "I can't do this anymore, honey. Can you change the channel?"
When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981, she was a beautiful twenty year old kindergarten teaching member of the aristocracy and I was an eighteen year old recent high school graduate with braces on my teeth. My grandma and I both got up at an ungodly hour in the morning to watch her traveling to St. Paul's Cathedral, looking nervous and overwhelmed, in the same state carriage that Queen Victoria had used for her own personal conveyance.
It was just under a year later, summertime again, and I was driving home from a summer class at Ball State, when I heard that Prince William had been born. My grandma was gone by then -- heart attack due to stress from dealing with the treatments for her lung cancer -- and I know she would have liked to watch his christening together a month or so later.
Then Prince Harry was born several years after that and both little boys were just beautiful.
I always liked what very little I knew about Princess Diana. She was such a real person. Sometimes she loved the paparazzi and sometimes she hated them. She apparently found her formidable mother-in-law to be a stuffy old biddy. She liked Duran Duran. She had bulimia and temper tantrums and she hugged Mother Teresa. She kissed AIDS babies and held them on her lap.
She endured a very public divorce and was photographed for more magazine covers than any other woman in the world.
And then she died and her casket traveled through the streets of London to Westminster Abbey with that little wreath of lilies and the card reading "To Mummy" on top -- every mother's nightmare -- and every time I think of her or see a picture of her, my eyes fill with tears and I really can't understand why.
"What was so special about her?" asked Meelyn as she watched me drying my eyes as Elton played the last few measures of the song.
"I...don't know," I answered. "I guess it was just that....she was a princess. A very beautiful, flawed princess. Just like all the rest of us, only famous. And beautiful. And bratty and brave and...a mom. That's what was special about her."
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